So Lenna is convinced that her father’s wind drake is on top of the nearby mountain, and the rest of the party agrees to go along with this because, well, they weren’t doing anything. Also there’s no other route to the water crystal than via the air at this point, so that’s a good motivator. The trek to North Mountain isn’t terribly interesting, with its very name making it pretty clear where you’re heading.
As with most dungeons that take place on mountains through the series, this is not a particularly interesting or ornate area, largely linear and without much in the way of hidden passages. What is interesting is that you’re probably moving along nicely with your character jobs by this point, unlocking some abilities to toss into your secondary slot and probably considering swapping jobs on some characters. This is actually reasonable, since later job levels take more and more ABP to learn, but later enemies reward more ABP for clearing a battle. If you haven’t been constantly swapping, as you move through this dungeon you’ll start picking up some real options.
Once you have access to the jobs, the complexity of Final Fantasy V kind of explodes. Not in a bad way, you’re not being smothered by stuff to do, but the overall change is pretty notable. You have a new swath of jobs to use, and suddenly you have to deal with an aspect of gameplay that has not been an issue in any previous installment of the franchise to date.
Previous installments of the franchise didn’t feature a lot of choice, or at least not much in the same sense of playing around with jobs. Even Final Fantasy III barely cared which job you had been leveling with before; it was all about what you were doing now, after all. Level as something that turned out to be useless and then change? You don’t miss out on much. But here, useless and useful jobs have an impact. Leveling now has an impact on what you’re doing while leveling later. Planning well means negating later grind.
If you remember back to last August when I first started talking about Final Fantasy IV, you might remember that I also started talking about Final Fantasy V. Or at least I mentioned that it was a thing, because as much as people like to claim that Final Fantasy IV got toned down because Square believed American gamers were stupid, that’s not what happened But it is what happened to Final Fantasy V.
Of course, Final Fantasy V doesn’t have the allure of Final Fantasy III as forbidden fruit, since it was the first of the three unreleased games to make the official jump to North American shores. Ironically, this took place long before its obvious inspiration came out here. Final Fantasy V is a pretty direct spiritual sequel to Final Fantasy III, you see, in both terms of story and mechanics. It’s also a game that kind of relies on a knowledge that Square was pretty certain most players just didn’t have, which wound up killing translation on the vine and led to a completely different game.
It’s all over but the shouting now. If you’ve managed to build a party that could reach this far into the final dungeon of The After Years, you’ve gotten everything on lockdown. Time to wrap up what has been one of the most bizarrely drawn-out sequels in the franchise, which is saying something when there are only three games in the franchise that have had actual, direct sequels at all.
The problem I have, of course, is that there are really two stories being told through the game. The first is the overarching plot regarding the Mysterious Girl, the Crystals, and so forth. That’s about 50% interesting and 50% rehashes. The second, though, are the individual stories with bits of character development and so forth. For reasons known only to the designers, the conclusion basically abandons those individual stories altogether, despite the fact that the individual tales sort of left them halfway to being finished. Instead of bulking out this conclusion with those smaller resolutions, well, you read the last column. It was bulked out with 20-odd bosses.
It occurs to me at this point that I have been in the world of Final Fantasy IV for 28 columns now. Seriously, this is number 28! It started in August of last year! How did anyone spend this much time working in this world of all the possible settings?
Well, in the case of The After Years, by recycling a whole lot of the first game. But no time to whine about that, we’ve got a final dungeon to explore… soon.
Once you’ve finally had the very final dungeon opened up, you actually do get something else unlocked. Remember all that Adamantite that we were stockpiling all through the game? Turns out that can be used for something, specifically for some powerful equipment. It’s taken us the entire rest of the game to get here, sure, but now we’re finally here and we can go get ourselves some valuable items by turning in seemingly irrelevant items that we had been hoarding through every single tale. Meanwhile, all of the other treasures from the challenge dungeons have been summarily replaced.